Telecom Revolution through Rural Marketing in Bihar

One of the most backward areas in India is Bihar A while back i had written a post on Internet's growth in Bihar now lets take a look at...

One of the most backward areas in India is Bihar A while back i had written a post on Internet's growth in Bihar now lets take a look at how Airtel is pioneering change in Bihar through rural marketing.Amy yee of financial times makes a journey to Bihar and comes impressed by Rural marketing by Airtel here is what he says
For rural marketing Airtel stages Bollywood-style song and dance performances on the back of lorries. At one such show on a street corner in Belaganj, another town in Bihar, three young men gyrate their hips to a Hindi pop tune and leap across a small stage. A crowd ogles the show, although one man remains engrossed in fixing a tractor nearby.
After the performance Airtel representatives hand out red shirts and caps to the crowd. An MC with a microphone peppers the crowd with trivia about the company’s services.
Operators must focus on making services accessible and affordable for rural customers. The literacy rate in Bihar is 47 per cent. Those who cannot write mark their registration forms with a thumbprint.
The desire to talk among those who have left India’s remote villages is keen. Take Devinder Chowdhary, a 33-year-old chauffeur based in New Delhi, far from the village in Bihar where his parents, wife and two young children live.
Like millions of other migrants who have left the poor Indian state in search of work, Mr Chowdhary travels home rarely. The journey to his village of 4,000 people takes 30 hours by train and bus.
But he and his family bought mobile phones last year, and they now talk regularly. Connecting is far easier than when he had to get through to the village phone stand and leave messages. He speaks to them at least twice a week.
In his last conversation, Mr Chowdhary asked his parents whether they had sown the crops now the monsoon had begun. He is also called on to resolve disputes between his wife and his mother, he says.
Before getting a mobile phone, he spent Rs200 a month at public phones. Today, Mr Chowdhary’s monthly mobile phone bill is about Rs500, out of an income of Rs6,000, but he is able to talk for longer.
Mr Chowdhary cannot write, so text messages are useless to him. But he spends 10 minutes a day on local calls.
The best thing about his mobile phone, he says, is: “I can talk whenever I feel like it.”
Phone plans rely on prepaid credits and retailers can electronically refill credit on a customers’ phone, bypassing forms. Airtel’s rural start-up bundle offers a Motorola handset for as little as Rs1,599. Recharge coupons come in denominations as small as Rs10 so “even the daily wage worker can afford to talk”, Mr Kumar says.
Airtel is blitzing Bihar with roadside advertisements that feature its red logo. It is aggressively expanding its network of commission-based retailers, who hawk handsets and top-up cards from stores that sell anything from camera film to cloth.
The company aims to offer services in Bihar through 5,000 cigarette and pan sellers, whose betel nut stands are ubiquitous across India. That is in addition to 55,000 retailers in Bihar and the neighbouring state of Jharkand.
Although voice calls will continue to be its core business, Airtel also offers features whose aim is to create “emotional attachment” to its brand. Ring tones of catchy pop tunes, religious chants and hymns are popular. And Airtel recently launched a hotline that dispenses jokes, songs and information in Bhojpuri, Bihar’s local language.
Mobile banking and money transfer are other areas with great potential: 80 per cent of India’s population lacks access to financial services.
But efforts to expand the rural market are hobbled by nightmarish logistics. Acquiring titles to land on which to erect phone masts is a bureaucratic maze. Annual floods wash away roads and bridges and make the set-up and maintenance of expensive masts all the more difficult.
Many are built on sites that are as far as 25km from the nearest electricity supply. Hundreds of litres of diesel must be trucked in weekly to feed the generators that run masts and other equipment.
Rolling out services in rural areas is especially precarious where “the writ of government does not run”, says Mr Kumar. Maoist rebels infest pockets of poor, rural India and are known to besiege towns and extort bribes.
In spite of these hurdles, rural markets even in beleaguered Bihar are hungry for communication. From just 2.87 per cent in 2000, phone penetration in Bihar has increased to 7 per cent. It is expected to double next year.
The remoteness of most of Bihar and the fact that many residents migrate to other states for work make communication all the more important. “Fundamentally, there is a need to talk,” Mr Kumar says
Rural india is where the growth is and everybody knows that and thus the major effort by all telcos to enter the market and i hope that as more and more corporates start entering rural markets it will help bridge the divide in India.Source of rural marketing article :Financial Times
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